Being outdoors is fun, but even more importantly, it’s good for the brain, body, and soul. Here are some scientific reasons why you should get up close and personal with Mother Nature.
1. BEING OUTDOORS BOOSTS YOUR ENERGY. Craving another cup of coffee? Maybe you should skip the caffeine and sit outside instead. One study suggests that spending 20 minutes in the open air gives your brain an energy boost comparable to one cup of joe.
2. IT FEELS EASIER TO EXERCISE OUTDOORS. Does it seem noticeably easier to exercise outside? This might be thanks to your verdant surroundings. In one small study, researchers had cyclists pedal in front of green, grey, and red video footage. The bikers who exercised in front of the green reported feeling less physical exertion and more positive moods—meaning that grass, trees, and plants might add a psychological energy boost to your workout.
3. THE OUTDOORS IS GOOD FOR YOUR VISION. Research shows that elementary school students who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop nearsightedness.
4. NATURAL SUNLIGHT HELPS MITIGATE PAIN. In one study, surgery patients who were exposed to high-intensity sunlight reported less stress and marginally less pain, and therefore took less pain medication.
5. THE OUTDOORS BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM. Scientists think that breathing in phytoncides—airborne chemicals produced by plants—increases our levels of white blood cells, helping us fight off infections and diseases.
6. THE OUTDOORS PROVIDES YOU WITH FREE AROMATHERAPY. According to science, you really should stop and smell the flowers. Research shows that natural scents like roses, freshly cut grass, and pine make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
7. THE OUTDOORS ENHANCES CREATIVITY. If you’re struggling with writer’s block, you might want to ditch your laptop for the great outdoors. Psychologists found that backpackers scored 50 percent higher on creativity tests after spending a few days in the wild sans electronics.
8. THE OUTDOORS HELPS WITH SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER. In the winter, shorter days and lower light levels can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD—a reoccurring condition that’s marked by symptoms of anxiety, exhaustion, and sadness. Doctors say spending time outside can lessen SAD’s severity—even if the weather’s cold or overcast.
9. BEING OUTDOORS GIVES YOU YOUR DAILY DOSE OF VITAMIN D. Vitamin D is essential for a well-functioning body. It helps us absorb calcium, it prevents osteoporosis, and it reduces inflammation, among other things. Although vitamin D is present in some foods, like salmon and fortified milk, we get more than 90 percent of our vitamin D from casual exposure to sunlight.
10. THE OUTDOORS RESTORES YOUR FOCUS. Can’t concentrate at work? Leave your office for a few minutes and go stroll in a nearby park. Studies show that walking in nature helps restore our focus.
11. THE OUTDOORS MAKES US BETTER PEOPLE. According to psychologists, exposure to nature helps us shrug off societal pressures, allowing us to remember and value more important things like relationships, sharing, and community.